Battle of the Network Stars v2
Had a great conversation on this topic with a friend from a wireless software provider this weekend. He argued that Google/Yahoo/MSN would not want to enter the service provider space given the immense cost to support millions of voice customers and complexity in offering five 9s service. While I would initially agree, ultimately the difference between IM and VOIP is marginal in terms of data or customer management (neither ICQ nor Skype needed thousands of customer reps to manage millions of accounts). As long as the customer understands the potential service issues when using VOIP (and the product is cost-effective or free), users will be forgiving depending on how that network is ultimately monetized (I look forward to ads during breaks in service... phone musack ;)). So while I agree with my friends' view when comparing VOIP to landline POTS (plain old telephony service) , other communication mediums don't have that moat just yet.